What we learned about Villanova

Jay Wright reacts to a call during today's game. 'Nova beat No. 15 seed Robert Morris in overtime. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Villanova coach Jay Wright did not start Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher today because of what was described as ``Minor teaching points.’’

Not sure what they learned, but it was very educational for me.

Lesson 1: Fisher is expendable.

Lesson 2: Reynolds is not.

Lesson 3: Without Scottie Reynolds, I am sure they could not beat Robert Morris, and would likely have trouble with Quinnipiac, the top seed in Northeast Conference this season.

The record will show that Nova survived with a 73-70 overtime victory over the Colonials in their first round game today, continuing four straight years of struggles in this game. What will fade is that there was no fluke about it, that Robert Morris led from very early into the game until inside of the last minute of regulation, and would have likely won it had their two best ball handlers not fouled out down the stretch.

The loss of Philadelphia native Velton Jones and Gary Wallace, of Montclair, N.J., allowed 'Nova to create three big turnovers in the waning minutes, and freed up Reynolds just enough to drive into the paint and create points via free throws. Reynolds showed his seniorism in that stretch too, twice creating the contact.

With Robert Morris engulfing him with as many as three players, Reynolds shot a dismal 2 for 15 from the field. But he sank all but one of his 16 free throws in the game and his tenacity, especially down the stretch, allowed the Cats to escape a first round opponent. Again.

There were other bright spots, like the play of freshmen Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton, but if this game is any indication, Nova’s boast that they had collected their act in the week of practice between this game and last Thursday’s Big East first-round loss to Marquette was without merit.

That said, give the Colonials a world of credit. Had they received a few more favorable calls – two would have been enough – they would be celebrated today as another two-seed giant killer.

Instead the lingering story is once again the purported giant, whose stumble down the stretch this season seems, at this point, to predetermine an early exit.

Maybe as soon as Saturday.